Lesson Helps: The Way to Truth (John Taylor Lesson 23

The way to truth? O yes, there is such a royal road, and any man may find and follow it. True, it heads straight for the goal and therefore is not attractive to those who like to meander and loiter among pretty fields of pseudo-truth. But those who have trodden the royal way, and their names are legion, bear witness to the surpassing joy of the journey.
The way to truth may be found by anyone who desires it. But, he must desire it with all his might, mind, and strength. A Sunday wish will not suffice. The desire must suffuse and penetrate every waking moment. One's whole being must reach out for truth, a fragment of which must become more precious than the whole scintillating world of untruth. Life itself must seem a small price to pay for the possession of truth.
Such a desire leads one inevitably to the gateway of truth. The great ones of all ages, prophets, poets, philosophers, and scientists, who have moved the world forward, have been vibrating lovers of truth. They have not found this gem of gems accidentally, but it has been revealed to them as the result of their earnest struggle. They set out with the power of desire in their souls, and victory was assured. To such, truth cannot be denied. It comes to them with a "great wakening light," as servant and friend. Modern science has revealed that wherever the searcher goes truth is found. The Prophet Alma has formulated the thought, "He granteth unto men according to their desire."
Many a mighty but stubborn soul has haunted the moorlands of life because it refused to yield itself to the desire for truth rather than to its own wilfulness. Many a simple but fervent soul, asking for truth above all else, has won the kingship of happy understanding among the restless multitude. Love of truth cannot thrive with an undisciplined will. Therefore the will for truth leads man farther than the possession of powerful physical or intellectual strength. There is no real desire for truth unless the individual is ready to lay by, if need be, his former conceptions, in favor of the greater truth that he has found. The unbeliever usually comforts himself with the assurance that his analytical powers will lead him to truth, and forgets that the first requisite is a consuming desire to know things as they really are.
Truth is unlimited: that is the clarion cry of science and of religion. The search for truth is a process of discovering the unknown, of throwing light into dark places. The searcher interprets the language of life and reads the will of God. And he is able to do so because he is in tune or communion with the truth he seeks. He must believe that it is there; he must seek, as it were, to touch it and to be led by it. Such attempts to be in harmony with truth is prayer.
Men who search out truth are prayerful. They stand with uncovered heads before the unknown. They know their own insignificance before the eternal fount of knowledge. Certainly, there are some truthseekers, usually busy in material fields, who do not speak to the Lord directly, but they also stand reverently before the power in all things, which is their conception of God. Prayer as commonly understood, or its equivalent, is a requisite for those who are to travel the way to truth. Manly men who really love truth, are proud to pray to God for help and guidance. They get down on their knees. Prayer and desire go hand in hand. Desire says, Let us go, and prayer answers, Here is the way. Desire is the determination to build the house; prayer is the planning and making ready for it. Desire is the gasoline in the engine, prayer the ignition that permits work to be done. On the way to truth, prayer must be as a constant jubilant cry of the traveler.
To win knowledge of the unseen, to obtain a testimony of truth, one must pray without ceasing. It must be the first and last act of the day. Then, we shall be in tune and harmony with the forces about us, and truth will wait upon us, and we shall recognize it. The need of prayer grows with the increase of truth.
The third step towards the way to truth is to bend actively every power to the elucidation of truth. The scientist with strong desire for the discovery of truth, and a prayer in his heart that he may be attuned to it, and thereby be able to recognize it, sets out to learn all that is known about the subject, and then he experiments, records and analyses, until at last the new discovery comes into view. It is often strenuous labor. Amundsen, who saw both poles and traveled the northwest passage, had a burning desire for exploration, and placed himself in full harmony with the spirit of discovery; then he informed himself as few men have done about the history of exploration, ocean currents, magnetic disturbance, meteorology, navigation, shipbuilding, and numerous other things required in his coming labors. It was upon such a preparation that he built his immortal career. Such earnest study is required of all who achieve truth.
The field of religion offers no exception. To understand religious truth it must be studied. The gospel of Jesus Christ comprehends all other knowledge. It is the philosophy that explains the whole of man's relationship to the universe. It invites the deepest study and the severest scrutiny. In religion as in science the more a subject is studied, the more perfect is our knowledge of it. Our certainty of the truth of a subject does not necessarily depend upon our extent of knowledge, but comprehensiveness of understanding unquestionably increases as knowledge grows.
Failure to become acquainted with a subject through careful study has led to many a disaster, especially in the spiritual field. Men who have spent years of study to perfect themselves in a science, and only weeks in the systematic consideration of religion, often set themselves up with splendid indifference to consistency as equally competent in both fields. Religion demands studious attention if it is to be understood. It is well to ask the blatant unbeliever something about the serious study he has given the subject.
It scarcely needs to be said that each person must find the way to truth for himself. Another man cannot desire for us or pray in our stead, or study in our place. That can be done neither in science nor religion. The help received from another is proportional to our own effort.
The recognition of this principle is found in the restored church of Christ, in which the priesthood is held by all worthy men, and all members participate in church activities. In the progress towards truth every traveler must walk upon his own feet. Study of the principles of truth is therefore required of all.
Truth is not fully established until it is put to the test of practice; that is, truth must be obeyed to be fully known. This is an elementary principle of scientific thought, but for some inexplicable reason, in the field of religion it has seemed less important.
Yet, use gives life to knowledge; it converts theory into certainty; it is the convincing seal of testimony. Practice or obedience is the final step towards the way to truth.
This is the most difficult requirement made of the truth-seeker. After he has become intellectually convinced of the truth of a principle, he must practice is to establish its final certainty. A smoker who becomes convinced of the divine truth of the Word of Wisdom must forego the use of tobacco; or if convinced of the correctness of the principle of tithing, he must divide with the Lord; that means a battle with carnal desires. But a fulness of knowledge concerning the principles of truth comes only from obedience to them.
The strength of desire and sincerity of prayer for truth are here given the acid test. Learning the law may be a pleasant pastime, but obedience to law requires yielding of the will, which demands the assistance of flaming desire and intense prayer. When the man of knowledge stops short of practice, his desire for truth is weak. Many of the critics and faultfinders of systems of truth are in just such a condition. They know or fear that a principle is true, but have not the courage to try it out. Thousands of thinking people know that "Mormonism" is true, but they dare not practice its tenets and yield obedience to its requirements. Such people have no right to set themselves up as guides to others; they would better devote themselves to the subjection of their wills to the call of truth. And, by a curious token, study and practice nourish desire and give direction to prayer, and thus strengthen the will.
The way to truth? Yes, it may be found easily, but only by paying the eternal price of truth. The way is through the higher logic, the convincing teaching of the spirit of truth by the operations of the mind and the eager outreaching of the spirit to God.
Whoever would find truth must:
  1. Desire truth,
  2. Pray for it,
  3. Study, and
  4. Practice it.
Those who do so will find truth, for it cannot be denied them. They will receive the glorious and priceless possession called a testimony or complete assurance of truth, which becomes the great gift of God to its possessor.
Is truth worth the effort necessary to secure it?
Truth is the only enduring possession of man; the only power that lifts man into permanent joy. It is the final justification of life. Human days are valueless if truth is not worth every sacrifice of life. Those who have lived most have lived by truth. So speaks the voice of human experience.
(John A. Widtsoe, In Search of Truth: Comments on the Gospel and Modern Thought [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1930], 112.)
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